Ted Stevens, lifelong sports advocate


As the Ted Stevens Papers Project progresses, materials processed so far make it clear that Senator Stevens had a vested interest in sports on and off the Hill. An avid tennis player, he was able to see the value in sports and recreation reflected in both his personal and professional lives. This is evident through numerous photographs of Stevens with professional athletes who looked to Stevens as a role model and protector of their rights to sports, and also through photos of the Senator himself participating in health and wellness activities. Additionally, Stevens’ crafting of, and impact on, legislation regarding equal access to athletic opportunities is apparent . Constituents and peers respected Senator Stevens’ staunch support of sports through any avenue available.

Stevens reputation for standing behind sports, and equality in sports, is reflected in two primary pieces of legislation that embody his belief that equal access to sports is an individual right, and a responsibility of the government to protect. Title IX, supported by Stevens as part of the Equal Education Amendments Act of 1972, and the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 came to define his political stance regarding sports. Title IX provided that young women would have an equal opportunity to their male counterparts to participate in school athletics and other sports programs, and his support gained him the reputation of ‘protector’ of Title IX. As a sponsor of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, Stevens was a leader in crafting the legislation, working to establish the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) for each individual sport, as well as providing legal protection for individual athletes. The 1978 Act was revised in 1998 to reflect the reality that many competitive athletes were not “amateurs”, expand the USOC’s domain to include the Paralympics, and establish avenues to provide athletes with advice and advocacy on grievance procedures. Rosey Fletcher, a lifelong Alaskan and three time Olympian who benefited from the passage of the Acts, claimed in the Anchorage Daily News in November 2011 that Ted Stevens’ name warrants a place in the Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions to athletes of all ages and abilities.

Similarly, both the USOC and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) observed the impact Stevens’ support had on athletes and sports. The IOC recognized Stevens by presenting him with their highest honor of the Olympic Order; Stevens became the first member in Congress to receive the award from the IOC. The USOC awarded Stevens the Olympic Torch Award, the highest honor presented to individuals in recognition of outstanding service in the US Olympic movement. Most recently, in 2012 Stevens was inducted posthumously into the US Olympics Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Olympic movement.